Jimmy Hamilton

Jimmy Hamilton

Following a thread about clarinets, I had one of my frequent crushes on Jimmy Hamilton's clarinet playing.

I contacted Ruben Greenberg*, that owns Hamilton's Leblanc (LL) and he kindly authorized me to publish part of his reply on cafesaxophone.
[...] The YouTube excerpt that you sent me [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XUWniWj4Pdk] was filmed at exactly the time I became close to Jimmy Hamilton. I was a teenager in San Francisco working at the Olympic Hotel; the Hotel the Ellington orchestra would always stay in. Jimmy and I became very close. "Never on a Sunday", which you have sent me, was an arrangement by Jimmy Hamilton; a commercial pop song then in vogue, which they would play at dances, but transformed by the Jimmy Hamilton arrangement which is so full of life and so witty. Sam Woodyard, Jimmy and Lawrence Brown sound great in it.
Jimmy Hamilton played a Leblanc LL clarinet which is now in my possession and which I have owned for 46 years. He played it for about 10 years. As for his mouthpiece; it was a standard, stock Leblanc mouthpiece of that time; probably an L4 (not a bad mouthpiece at all!) close in facing to a Vandoren 45. One of the secrets of his wondrous tone was his absolute relaxation; he was totally loose when he played and had an incredibly elegant style. He was Classsically trained; a student of the famous teacher Leon Russianoff who also taught Stanley Drucker of the New York Philharmonic. I played Debussy's" Première Rhapsodie" to Jimmy Hamilton, and we worked on it together. In those days, there was no question of an African-American being admitted into an American Symphony Orchestra.
On tenor, his style was diametrically opposed to what he did on the clarinet; raucous and bluesy; strongly influenced by Ben Webster and Coleman Hawkins. In this respect, he was Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde!
Few arrangers were permitted by the Duke to contrbute something to his "book"; to use the jargon of the times. There was Billy Strayhorn, of course. There was Gerald Wilson. And there was Jimmy Hamilton. My favourite Jimmy Hamilton contribution is "Tenderly" on the "Ellington Indigos" Album. He plays so sadly and beautifully, and it is his arrangement with a marvellous Ellington accompaniment on the piano of incredible harmonic richness.
Jimmy wrote some compositions for clarinet quartet-three B-flat clarinets and bass clarinet-which I played with him, Russel Procope and Harry Carney. They were never published [...] To answer your question, he did record away from the Ellington band several times. One recording is with him and an arrangement for 6 euphoniums-great stuff. [...] Nevertheless, his best work was with Ellington.

* Ruben Greenberg is the author of "Melodic finger twisters for clarinet".
Coincidentally the book that the great Tony Coe recommended me to put my pinkies in place, on clarinet.
I recommend it to all saxophone players that decide to start on clarinet.
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Jimmy Hamilton. My favourite Jimmy Hamilton contribution is "Tenderly" on the "Ellington Indigos" Album.

Indeed. absolutely wonderful I have that album, great review, Thank you!
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